‘Personhood’ bill hits resistance amid IVF, abortion concerns

Legislation derided by Democrats and critics over concerns it would criminalize legal abortions and lead to restrictions on in vitro fertilization failed to advance at its final committee stop, derailing the bill’s progress with two weeks left in the Regular Session.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate Rules Committee but was postponed. The Committee isn’t scheduled to meet again this Session.

“I have requested that (SB 476) be temporarily postponed at this time,” said bill sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, in a released statement.

“It is my understanding this is the first time this issue has been considered by the Florida Legislature. Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done. It is important we get the policy right with an issue of this significance.”

The House version of the bill (HB 651) is ready for a vote on the floor in that chamber, but the Senate would have to schedule a special committee hearing to bring it to the floor.

Democrats and abortion rights advocates had long feared the bill would put doctors who perform abortions at risk of being sued. They also feared an amendment to the bill would grant “personhood” status to fetuses in civil liability cases, putting state law on a path for courts to interpret unborn children as full persons, thus banning abortions.

The concerns over the personhood provision became more acute when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week that embryos were people under that state’s constitution. The ruling led clinics to stop the IVF process, which included the storage of frozen embryos. The move by the IVF clinics could cost parents struggling to conceive thousands of dollars, in addition to the chance to have a child.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said before the meeting she still had serious concerns about the personhood aspect of the bill, despite amendments from Grall attempting to protect women and doctors who perform legal abortions from being sued.

“This is a backdoor attempt at personhood,” Book told reporters ahead of the meeting. “Any time you start talking about personhood, IVF is on the table.”

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